Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Pharisees & charity

One of my Christian friends- surprise, surprise that an Orthodox Jew has Christian friends- was bemoaning the other day the 'world vision' decision to first allow gay married couples to work in their organisation and then with 48 hours, under pressure from 'fundamentalists', they reversed this decision. Predictably, perhaps, liberal Christians pounced on this these 'fundamentalists' as 'Pharisaical' & then the other side came back with arguments about the need, even with people in need, to stick to the gospel truth. This particular friend was most distraught, as to her it didn't seem very Christian.  I think she was in favour or at least didn't see a problem with gay people, married or not, serving a charity, but she asked me for a Jewish perspective. 

Of course, I can't claim - never do- that I speak for all of Judaism here, but my thoughts are : 
  • I don't actually give to openly Christian charities, not because I don't think they do any good in the world, I just personally feel that there is more to them than simple charity, such as the desire to convert people. I'm not a fan of forcing those in need to revert to an ideology in order to be fed.
  • I dislike the phrase of 'Pharisaical' because Jews are often referred to in such as way in Christian lore, because we follow a bunch of ancient, impossible to follow regulations, which aren't necessary anyways because of Jesus (putting aside the confusion Christians have with Torah, as they can never seem to make their minds up about which bits to choose).
  • The Jewish concept of charity is rooted in 'justice', which we called Tzedakah, traditionally at least 10% of our income. There are different 'levels' of  giving, which I've listed below... none of these mention whether or not a particular organisation employees gay people & I doubt the people in need actually care either.  I also guess you could note that giving does not involve pumping in massive amounts of money to large charities, but can also be done at a local, community level.  
  1. Giving begrudgingly
  2. Giving less that you should, but giving it cheerfully.
  3. Giving after being asked
  4. Giving before being asked
  5. Giving when you do not know the recipient's identity, but the recipient knows your identity
  6. Giving when you know the recipient's identity, but the recipient doesn't know your identity
  7. Giving when neither party knows the other's identity
  8. Enabling the recipient to become self-reliant

As ever,readers can contribute  & come up with their own conclusions.


  1. Sad to see that ideological purity was seemingly more important to helping people and refusing funding because of bigotry .

  2. Hi Esther ,

    Great post thanks. I never did quite get why withholding to the needy was greater than such stuff as opposing gay marriage. Thanks for giving us a different perspective !


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